10 Simple Causes Denali "The Nice One" is Alaska's major attraction
Visit Denali – North America's tallest mountain
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
It is impossible to visit Alaska without seeing Denali, the "big one", in all its glory. The opportunity to experience this massive 20,310 foot summit that shines brightly in all its majesty is truly a privilege. In many ways, the awe-inspiring natural beauty is so utterly transcendent. While it cannot be denied that Alaska's many regions have so many amazing features to offer, North America's highest mountain peak is undoubtedly Alaska's main attraction.
Flickr – Dave Hensley
Leisure enthusiasts will love this 6 million acre outdoor Mecca in Alaska's inner wilderness. Hiking, mountaineering, wildlife viewing, bus rides to the park, northern lights, history, glaciers, dog sledding, and much more!
Flickr – Justin Kiner
1: If you are looking for a wild, rugged, completely pristine environment when you come to Alaska … Denali is where to find it. There is only one street in and one street out. This 92 mile long road began construction in 1923 and was completed in 1938. Visitors can hope for a bus and venture deep into the park, where they have ample access to hop off and hike, ride a bike, or spend the day taking world-class photos. Private vehicles are only allowed up to mile 15. However, if you have access to Alaska in the fall, we highly recommend applying for the Denali Road lottery. This is the most impressive way to see more of the park at your own pace.
Flickr – Aarthi Narayanan
2: 20,310 feet is damn high! Adrenaline junkies will enjoy this mountain paradise. If you're a mountaineer obsessed with new peaks it doesn't get much better than Denali. This is truly a mountaineering mecca. 1913 was the first registered peak. There are also tons of incredible peaks and ice walls in the Alaska Range for mountaineers to hone their skills before attempting to conquer the highest peak in North America.
Flickr – twiga269 ॐ FEMEN
3: The Big Five! Did you know that most visitors to Denali National Park & Preserve are looking for spectacular sights from the Big 5? These include the five largest mammals in the park; Moose, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears and dall sheep. The park is also home to 39 species of mammals, 169 species of birds, and over 1,500 species of plants. As with anywhere else you look for WILD life, it is extremely important to exercise caution, familiarize yourself with the hinterland and respect the space of the surrounding wildlife. After all, it's your home … you are only a visitor to your home.
Flickr – Justin Kiner
4: Since the official state sport of Alaska is dog mushing, it's no surprise that sled dogs play an important role in overseeing the park, which is home to North America's highest mountain. That's right, some of Denalis Park Rangers are four-legged fur babies. Denali sled dogs are the ONLY sled dogs found in the United States' national park system. In fact, they've been patrolling the park since it opened in the 1920s. When the snow melts, these “indispensable employees” can free themselves from their winter responsibilities and hang out with the visitors. Next time you're here, be sure to add a sled dog demonstration to your Denali bucket list! This is a fun activity that is suitable for all ages, shapes, and sizes. It's almost impossible not to fall in love with these adorable canines.
Flickr – Pearl Woman
5: Rich history and incredible culture can be found in popular Denali National Park. The name Denali is derived from the native Athabaskan languages and means "the great" or "mountain-sized". Alaskan indigenous people have lived in the Denali countryside for thousands of years. Notably, they have used the country's rare resources for things like clothing, shelter, food, transportation, and trade. Visitors can learn more about the history and culture of Denali by visiting the visitor center right inside the park or by attending a ranger interview with the National Park Service.
Flickr – Dave Bezaire
6: Explore an explosion from the past and see what Denali was like millions of years ago. Can you imagine how much the world's landscapes have changed since the Ice Age? Fascinating to explore! Denali's 70 million year old Cantwell Formation is filled with dinosaur fossils. The National Park Service reported that back in 2005, a three-toed carnivore named a theropod named theropod, which was the first fossil ever found in interior Alaska. Since then, reports of thousands more fossils have been discovered. The Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park & Preserve provides an incredibly educational place for visitors to see many of these fascinating fossils.
Flickr – Denali National Park and Preserve
7: There's no bigger bucket list than seeing a breathtaking Northern Lights show in or around Denali National Park. Plus, it's one of the best places in the entire United States to see the aurora borealis. Late fall and winter are the best times of the year to see the lights, and well into early spring. Aurors actually occur year round, though Alaska's long summer days make them nearly impossible to see. Plan for a clear, cold, dark night and even if you don't see the lights, the chances are high that the stargazing is still phenomenal.
Flickr – Paul Weeks
8: Beautiful, glittering, glacier – oh my god! Can you believe that glaciers cover a million acres of Denali? That's an amazing sixth of the entire park! These incredible land masses flow from 19,000 feet above sea level. In Denali, the Kahiltna Glacier is the longest in the park and in the Alaska Range. It stretches for a remarkable 44 miles along the southwest side of Denali.
Flickr – twiga269 ॐ FEMEN
9: If you don't really like amphibians and prefer the big, angry mammals of the "big 5" then Denali is the place for you. There are no reptiles in the northern region, although the wood frog is the only solitary amphibian in Denali National Park. Surprisingly, they can weather harsh sub-zero winter temperatures for months by freezing solid during that season. Their hearts don't beat and they don't breathe, but chemicals they contain protect the wood frogs' cells so they can hibernate. In the spring they thaw and return to ponds where they begin to breed. They are so rare and remarkable! Recognizing one is a real pleasure that cannot be taken for granted.
Flickr – Travis
10: Can you believe Denali the Great is visible from over 200 miles away? The Alaska Range creates its own weather system and on clear days can be seen from Alaska's two largest cities – Anchorage and Fairbanks. If you haven't heard from the 30% club, we are here to quietly let you know. It is reported that only 30% of Alaska's visitors actually get the chance to see Denali in all of its glory (mainly due to cloud cover and rainfall obscuring views of the mountain).
Flickr – Daxis
Are you looking for some more great read? Check out these 7 road trips that will fuel your wanderlust to travel to Alaska this summer. Or Alaska's underground permafrost tunnel that is hidden within sight. Or these 10 ridiculously rare Alaska attractions that will blow your mind. You might also like Alaska's unreal upside-down forest at Glacier Gardens in Juneau, Alaska.